samedi 5 mars 2011

Same Difference's 2nd CD album is pure POP!

It is more than a month ago that I posted about Same Difference's forthcoming second album release and I promised a full review of it as soon as I get it. It has been released on 7th February but it has taken me nearly a month to finally receive my imported CD ! Needless to say I downloaded the songs already as I couldn't wait but I wanted to have the full piece of album with CD, booklet, credits & lyrics to make my review. I'm more than ready today because this is really a true pop masterpiece ! Signed to the POPLIFE label, Sean & Sarah, the ex X-Factor celebrities, have grown up but their sound still sounds fresh and poppy like it was still 2000 and Steps were still releasing hit single after hit single with Pete Waterman... Maybe some will feel they sound dated, maybe some will think they're too cheesy but to my heart and for my ears, they just sound P-E-R-F-E-C-T.

01 SOULED OUT 4:09
(Mark Topham / Karl Twigg / Yamit Mamo)
Produced & Mixed by Topham & Twigg
The album starts with a song written and produced by the ex PWL duo behind Steps' success and snippets of the song were revealed last year as a possible single before Shine on forever was released. Souled out is a 500% instant hit, very upbeat and catchy with an incredible strong chorus that sticks to your head while your feet move to the rhythm of the whole song. It reminds me a lot of the songs Topham & Twigg did for PWL post Steps boys/girls group Pop! (Heaven & Earth and Can't say goodbye). So that means it sounds a little 2004 with Same Difference's pop being led into full energetic dance/pop but it doesn't sound dated to me. It needs to become a single ! I need to hear further remixes of that heavenly bound hit ! I can't get enough of it and play it on repeat... Addictive syndrome #1. 20/20

02 EUPHORIA 3:38
(Mark Topham / Karl Twigg / Nathan Thomas) Produced & Mixed by Topham & Twigg
Next track is from the same songwriters/producers and belongs to the same dance/pop musical territory even though it doesn't sound like Pop! '04, but '05, as it reminds me a lot of their Serious last single, with funky disco elements thrown in the continental euro dance/pop overall feeling. Once more, the rhythm is fast, the chorus is catchy and there is not a doubt this new one will help the duo " let the music elevate us into euphoria" as they're singing. Single alert #2. The chorus' intro would sound perfect, refrained by fans' voices in unison singin' "Oh I wanna be outrageous, I don't care where it takes us..." They've grown up, I told you. They've grown up and the photos from the CD booklet shows it too. 19,5/20

03 KARMA KARMA 3:07 featuring ALCAZAR
(Anders Hansson / Sharon Vaughn) Produced by Anders Hansson, Felix Persson & Märta Grauers
Mixed by Al Unsworth with Vocals Recorded, Produced & Mixed by Topham & Twigg
Third track on CD and the UK siblings offer themselves a party song with the swedish disco/pop band Alcazar. Once again, the song is very upbeat, but in a latin disco vibe this time that reminds me of some songs from the swedes' first album Casino. I admit it is not the song I like the best as I have never been into those latin pop fiestas but no doubt the Alcazar featuring as well as the Anders Hansson credit (he produced all Agnes international hits) could lead this one, if released as a proper single, into some mainstream charts success. I only have the feeling Karma karma was an Alcazar song in which Same Difference have been invited to sing into, rather than one of their own song they could have shared with Andreas, Tess & Lina. 16/20

(Tony Nilsson / Hanne Sorvaag) Produced by Tony Nilssen
Mixed by Al Unsworth with Vocals Recorded, Produced & Mixed by Topham & Twigg
The song that gives its title to the album starts as a calmer one but the intro hides well the fact that it is another upbeat number, and not a powerful mid-tempo as it first may seem or a ballad at all. Maybe it is the song that sounds the most like Steps to me, but very actual, with today's sound. It could be another mainstream hit single if released properly. The chorus is very strong and catchy but Sarah's (beautiful and strong) voice is proeminent over her brother's so maybe this one wouldn't sound really as a Same Difference single... 20/20

(John Myers / Sarah Smith / Sean Smith) Produced by John Myers
Mixed by Al Unsworth with Vocals Engineered by Pete Waterman Jnr
Shine on forever [Photo frame] follows and it was released last year as the first single off the album on their new label, with their new image and sound, and indeed, it does have a nearly electro dance/pop sound. This makes it the most trendy sounding song on the album maybe and it is a shame it only managed to get to #100 in the UK charts, but the CD single was only available via their own site's shop page and on digital download with big medias campaign and major company's promotion so it is a full achievement in itself, isn't it? Co-written with its producer John Myers, we hear the siblings' involvement in the song and it is odd to think their new start's first single was produced by the same man who produced their Stock/Aitken/Waterman cover version Turn it into love on their first album... But while on Pop his sound was polished by Quiz & Larossi's post-production, his raw dance vibe is on full effect here and I am still not bored on it, even after the thousand listens I've indulged myself to... 19/20

(Daniel Sherman / Andy Gilbert) Produced by The Flames (aka Daniel Sherman & Andy Gilbert)
Still no sign of a ballad or filler on the album while the sixth track plays but there is a new team on board. Daniel Sherman is no newbie in my book as he formed with ex PWL engineer Peter Day in the 2000's the Point4 songwriting/production team. Their best moments have been for sure ex Steps' Lisa Scott-Lee hit singles Lately and Too far gone or Gina G's Tonight's the night. Now he's teamed up with Andy Gilbert to form The Flames and their Waiting for the moment is another pure disco/pop anthem that shines like a glitter ball while the music is playing. Single potential once again, so I'm startin' to think this release was well worth the wait as it sounds like the Greatest Hits that my heart had dreamed of from the duo. 19,5/20

(Mark Topham / Karl Twigg / Nathan Thomas) Produced & Mixed by Topham & Twigg
From the songwriting & production credits I know the following song won't deceive me and Best mistake, who's been penned by the same people that were behind Euphoria, sounds like Steps' Stomp, Part II. Like the previous song, it is an all disco/dance anthem, very upbeat, very catchy, with nice high-pitched funky backing vocals where Sean shows what he got too. Shall I admit it would easily be a single's choice in my heart once again? One regret though, is that Sarah's ad-libs at the very end of the song sounds very good with a nice melody, but are just too short, cut off nearly as soon as they are starting... 20/20

08 THIS IS ME 3 :46
(Ian Curnow / Georgie Dennis / Sarah Smith / Sean Smith) Produced & Mixed by Ian Curnow & Dave Ford
On track 8, the siblings are for the first time going the romantic route with a piano-led ballad that first appeared as the B-side on Shine on forever [Photo frame] CD single. Co-written by themselves with Ian Curnow and Georgie Dennis (Cathy's young sister), it sounds like a Diane Warren typical ballad, with vibrant pre-chorus melody and poignant chorus line. "No matter where you are or who you wanna be (...) this is me". I must admit I didn't really listened to it when I bought me the single as I was heavily deceived this Ian Curnow penned song wasn't an upbeat pop song but a big ballad. Put back on this album after all these catchy numbers, I re-discover it and appreciate its simple beauty, although it will never be a what I would like to see them record really... This is me is to play on your mothers' day, having her talk and remember of the cute siblings from the X-Factor show of a couple of years ago... 15/20

09 EMOTION 2:56
(Tony Nilsson) Produced by Tony Nilssen. Mixed by Al Unsworth
with Vocals Recorded, Produced & Mixed by Topham & Twigg
Rhythm guitar then carribean percussions build up a festive and joyful music background for this second Tony Nilssen song, that is upbeat but not a dance song. Pop and organic would sum up Emotion's real essence but it is no problem to me as it is really catchy. The only thing is the chorus memorable line is more "I'm thinking about it, thinking about it" over "I gotta put a hold on my emotion" so an additional title (Thinking about it) to Emotion would fit the bill if a single release was in question but I very doubt it as there are so much better choices here. There is no shame to say this is only a good album track. 18,5/20

(Ian Curnow / Georgie Dennis / Sarah Smith / Sean Smith) Produced & Mixed by Ian Curnow & Dave Ford
This is me partners are back on duties but this time, it is for a full upbeat pop song with a melody that sounds like the best of PWL from the 90's. Superstar doesn't sound dated though, with some vocoderized effects and nice instrumentations. It sounds indeed like a patchwork of influences and melodies, where Sarah and Sean alternately take the lead all through the verses, pre-chorus, chorus or post-chorus. But what is it that this cold ending ??!!! At 3'15, when the song doesn't sound finished at all, the music sounds like tumbling down and it stops as if the recording tape operator has just cut it down by mistake... A further minute wouldn't have sounded out of place at all to display more of its harmonies and rhythms. 18/20

(Pete Hammond / Georgie Dennis / Sarah Smith / Sean Smith) Produced & Mixed by Pete Hammond
Thankfully, Heartbeat follows and while it sounds like Superstar suite perfectly, this time, the retro PWL sound is all over it, like Pete Hammond has been doing it these days, with all the typical sounds that made Stock/Aitken/Waterman productions famous and successfull for the 90's. I personally like Sarah's "It's just a heartbeat" cute backing vocal line after chorus that sounds sooo 1989 to me. This is a retro heaven for all PWL addicts like me and as I doubt everybody would recognize itself in this sounds today, I feel this placing near the end of the CD suits it well, like a secret jewel or hidden guilty pleasure, for those who can patiently wait. And I must admit that although I'm a radio edit fanatic over full extended mixes, I feel it's been too short when the music stops and I need to put it back with the Repeat touch... Maybe a Pete Hammond full extended retro mix is needed after all ? Can we have it as a bonus on Same Difference's next digital release, please. Thank you. 20/20

(Luke Juby / Sarah Smith / Sean Smith) Produced & Mixed by Topham & Twigg
with Additional Production & Strings by Luke Juby
This is already time for the end and Sean & Sarah offer us another moment of peaceful music, Broken memories being a pleasant melancholic mid-tempo. Not what I like the most but surely the best way to end an album that is so full of upbeat pop/dance anthems that just one more could have had your CD player explode in BPM hell. And in truth, Broken memories is very catchy, with a nice memorable melody and a beautiful acoustic vocal break where Sarah's voice shows her deepness. And I so love it when there is a piano leading the way for the voices... 18,5/20

All in all, this second album stays in the bubblegum pop territory they belong to since they first appeared on the X-Factor show and through their Syco years with previous album Pop and single We R one. But their voices, look and sound have matured and their target audience is not the kids anymore. Apart from the Stock/Aitken/Waterman PWL fanatics like me and those from the Hit Factory forum who can not pass on this release (for being the first to see Ian Curnow, Dave Ford & Pete Hammond all re-unite on the same release, as well as being a strong work from Topham & Twigg duo), I think all those who like good pop/dance music, all those who will forever be in Steps nostalgia, and a lot more people should get their hands on this CD, or at least download it from iTunes, Emusic, 7digital or elsewhere it is available worldwide ! They need to sell some to get to their next release. Pop is rumoured to be re-released with bonus tracks and I'd love to hear their original recorded version of Turn it into love as well as more unreleased material recorded at the PWL studios.

As a reminder of where they've come from, let me say this first album is still available and is another enjoyable trip into Pop-land. Mostly produced by swedish duo Quiz & Larossi (who were hired by Pete Waterman to replace Topham & Twigg and Andrew Frampton after they left his PWL company), it features lots of cover versions, some well-known ones they sang on the X-Factor show, like High School Musical's hit Breaking free or the Diane Warren penned song Nothing's gonna stop us now Starship popularized back in the 80's, some lesser known like Six previously recorded with Pete Waterman Let me be the one and Still amazed or Marie Serneholt (from A*Teens)'s I need a house. But the remake that enlightened all pop addicts' hearts was the Stock/Aitken/Waterman song Turn it into love, that Hazell Dean turned into a hit in 1988 after Kylie Minogue first featured her own version on her first album. The rest of the album was made of swedish compositions/productions courtesy of Quiz & Larossi duo as well as Max Martin's ex partners at Cheiron studios, Kristian Lundin and Jörgen Elofsson, except for the disco/dance upbeat number If you can't dance, that was co-written by the siblings with the METRO producers Graham Stack & Paul Barry. In conclusion, their first album was already a must-have for those who liked Steps/H&Claire and if you passed upon this release, you should make yourself a double-take with both CDs from Same Difference now.

1 commentaire:

  1. Brilliant review! I actually found the original version of Turn It Into Love on Youtube at It is much better than the version on their album!